Friday, 25 December 2015

My Christmas Wish

Many things have changed over the past year. Yet my Christmas wish is the same and, in light of world events, remains pertinent. Please click the link below to revisit my post. May the generosity that abounds during the holiday season infuse and sustain us all throughout the year ahead. Merry Christmas!
My Christmas Wish

Saturday, 19 December 2015

A Few of My Favourite Things


During this season of love and joy, I thought I'd contribute a little to commercialism and share a few of my favourite things...for those looking for last-minute gift ideas.




A wonderful new Christmas CD to get you in that festive mood.

Or, how about tickets to see a favourite artist? Yep, that's Jann Arden again. Can you tell I just love her? DH surprised me with tickets to go see her in concert this March. He didn't get them because it's Christmas but because she is actually coming to the island, performing 12 minutes away from us and she is so stinkin' good. We've both wanted to see her perform live. I will now be able to put the final check on my Canadian fab three list, since I've seen Diana Krall and Holly Cole.

 I saw this yummy group of guys on Tout le monde en parle. Their voices are even more delicious. Okay, there are some spectacular female voices on it too. Treat yourself. Mikie and Bobbie, I'm looking at you. 
How about a gift certificate to your favourite restaurant? If it has a view like one of our favourite haunts, and sea lions to boot, all the better.
 
A book. Or two. Or three. I bought this one to feed my Outlander addiction. And then I bought another twenty or so to feed more of my addictions...Susanna Kearsley, Genevieve Graham, C.C. Humphries, Terry Fallis, Elizabeth Hoyt, Anna Campbell... J

Consumables. You cannot go wrong, particularly with sparkling wines. This is the absolute best from our local winery Unsworth...also one of our favourite restaurants. You might not all be so lucky as to get your hands on a bottle of bubbly from them...and I'm sorry for that. I'm sure you'll manage to find something comparable...maybe.

I know you want one, but you can't have either of these. If you already have one, snuggle the stuffing out of the wee beastie and tell her/him how much you appreciate the joy and love brought to each day, just by their very existence. They are far too fleeting in our lives, my friends, but their purity of spirit and the memories of faithful companionship last forever.
 
Merry Christmas!
 

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Brigadoon


Rain-drizzled windows, swaying trees and awnings creaking in the gusts that sweep across the land—I am in heaven. I arrived here in July and plan on staying here until I am in, well, heaven? The vista is magnificent and the feelings it stirs as the forces of nature wash the canvas anew are indescribable. I yearn, I long and, yet, I am fulfilled.

I was blessed with an amazing school in my last years as an educator. I called it Brigadoon, for surely it rose from the mist just for me each morning; nothing that wonderful could exist in this world, could it?

Well, it seems that I lead a blessed life. I have exchanged one Brigadoon for another. And, if you look at the pictures, you can see not only how spectacular my backyard view is, but can also appreciate how the mists create such a rich image of the impossible, the magical. Of course, if you are not into musicals, you won't even know what I'm talking about…and that's okay too. J Just enjoy the photos. I certainly do. Each and every day, framed by a window while I write.

It is my muse and my escape. It is my home.

Today's rain-swept landscape.

Brigadoon

From Brigadoon to our back view in one hour.

My good luck writing charms...'cause I know some of you look for
 their pictures and because they really are. Each day, as I write, they sit
 beside me and support me, while enjoying the view too.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Writing counts.—Allyson Dickey


November was a busy month for me as a writer. For the first time in a few years I committed to NaNo...sorta. For the uninitiated, NaNo is the short-form term used by writers in reference to National Novel Writing Month. Writers commit to getting 50,000 words down in 30 days. Now, I must confess that I did not officially sign up this year. I love the inspiration but, realistically, I felt I could only produce 30,000 words. So, in my writers' forum, we set an accountability corner where we each established what we felt was our own achievable goal. I set mine:
Goal: 30,000
Goal: 40,000
Goal: 50,000

Nano was freeing. Through the discipline of its daily routine, I have once again found my writing mojo. I didn't make it to 50,000. I made it to 48,437 three days before the end of the month. And, I stopped—not remotely disappointed. I finished because I'd come to the end of my story. Lizzy murmured in my ear every day, and I furiously scribbled down her story. But she was done. I was done. We were both spent.

It is on the low side for a young adult novel count but I am fine with that. I will not need to cut my darlings but embellish them, enhance them, colour around their outlines until their scenes glow. I have left many a […] in the story, indicating that I need to go back and fill in detail, to paint with richer tones than I was able as I chased the plot. For that is what I did in November. I ran, I fumbled, I grabbed it in my hands and slam dunked it. The story.
 
I chose to write this young adult story, not only because it was unencumbered by research, but because Lizzy would not let me be. She wanted to be heard. I listened. I cried. I wrote her from the heart.
This month will be spent on revision—sorting the wheat from the chaff and seeing just how close I am to actually having a finished novel. That's the practical side of this thing we call writing. But, I know what really happened November 2015. The voice that whispered is a compilation of too many I heard in my years of education and, for once, I had the power to make a difference.



 

Saturday, 28 November 2015

The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live. —Flora Whittemore


Like many people, I follow a number of forums and blogs as well as Twitter feeds. They are often entertaining and I usually learn some things along the way. In the last few weeks I have been following discourse on some American hot-button issues: gun control, profiling and emergency immigration. I am both enthralled and appalled by the conversations. I equate it to passing the scene of a car accident—you know you shouldn't gawk, but you can't look away.

Politics can be polarizing and it has never been more evident to me than it has been in these online threads. Some folks, when they cannot convince others to concur with their opinions, have resorted to petty statements and personal jabs that fall just shy of getting the boot from moderators. These are folks who are well-spoken, well-rounded and, no doubt, good people. Most of them are Americans banging heads with one another. Now, that's gotta hurt.

As I watch American political candidates grandstanding, listen to the horrific news of mass shootings and police brutality, and then see how it trickles down and plays out on such a personal level in these online venues, I can't help but reflect upon my own country and my own beliefs. And, for the record, I am not looking to present a case or woo the masses. I am merely sharing my thoughts. Feel free to walk away at any time. It's easy. There's a little x in the top corner that works magic at making things disappear. With that out of the way, let me share my immediate thought: I am so fortunate be a Canadian.

Make no mistake, I am not claiming I live in a perfect country. Since it is run, and populated, by humans, I doubt I'll ever be able to make that extraordinary declaration. We too have problems, not the least being our inability to address head on the abuse and murder of indigenous women, our total disregard for mother nature as we continue to support things like the tar sands or grant corporations permission to dump toxic soil near life-sustaining lakes, and the existence of corruption at all levels of government—ranging from Senate scandals down to misuse of funds at the municipal level.

But, there has been a shift. It is small, but a tree grows from a seed; I am filled with hope and optimism for my country. Conversation is once again flowing between our premiers and our prime minister. I don't know if good things will come from this renewed approach, but I know for certain we cannot have cohesion or shared goals when there is no dialogue across our nation.

Much of the dissension, in the social media I follow, stems from the fear ignited by recent terrorist attacks. I acknowledge that fear, for it is substantial and it is real. One cannot un-feel it once it has dug into one's psyche. It is unfortunate that the media encourages it, nourishes it with every news story on refugees. They show images of the flood of people fleeing now, as if they will be the folks who fall over the threshold when we open our doors. This amplifies the anxiety that haunts the best of us: What if there are hidden terrorists seeking an opportunity to wreak more havoc? In truth, the folks who will arrive over the next month or so were vetted long before the terrible events in Paris and elsewhere. It is an incredibly long arduous process and there are much easier ways to get into our country to do harm—if that is someone's agenda. And those desperate souls you see in the news? If they are lucky, they will take our new immigrants' places in the camps and await their turn.

We have slowed the process a wee bit and I think that is wise. It gives Canadians a chance to digest how it is done, to thoroughly understand it so that we don't fear it, and it also allows us a little more time to prepare a warm welcome. For that is what these people need. It is what we all need. A safe place to call home.

I am proud that we are open to new people, that we feel compelled to help out to those who are in need and that we will not demand they shed their heritage at our shoreline. We are a mosaic. A beautiful colourful work of art that glows brightly from sea to sea.
 


 

 

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Hooked on Stories


Last night, DH and I attended our first theatre performance since moving to the island. The venue is a wonderful space with perfectly raked seating, terrific acoustics and not a bad view in the house. Musical theatre is my first love, and I waited with great anticipation for the show to begin. It was one I'd never heard of but it drew on music from the fifties, so I knew it would be a treat. It was—just not the treat I expected.

It is billed as a musical and, by definition of a musical, it fits the bill: having pleasing harmonious qualities of music; set to or accompanied by music; of or relating to music. But, I thought I was attending the other kind of musical—a movie or play that tells a story with songs and often dancing. I found myself disappointed despite the fact that it was upbeat with lots of fun songs and terrific dancing. And, it bothered me that I felt let down...until I pinpointed why.

I'm hooked on stories. The main character, based on a real-life DJ, had a story. I caught a glimpse of it a couple of times, but I left knowing very little about him except that he was popular with teens, he met Elvis and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. I wanted to know more: What roads did he travel down, what did he think about it all, who broke his heart, who made him whole? The teens in the show danced and sang up a storm. But, they had no story either. The hint of a connection would catch my interest but it was just schtick and was dropped as the next number came along, leaving me wanting once again. I wanted a story set to music and what I got was a musical revue.

Once I realized that, I relaxed. It was my expectations that set the stage for disappointment, not the show.  I started to watch the audience as well as the performers. I would put the average age in the theatre at 65 years plus. They laughed, they sang and they reached for each other's hands. Trisha Yearwood sings a poignant song called The Song Remembers When and I slowly realized that that was what was unfolding all around me. These songs were sparking memories, reigniting moments shared and it was a joyous, amazing thing to watch.

There were stories last night—that large auditorium was bursting with them. They were told with a look, with a touch, with a smile. I squeezed DH's hand, sat back and drank it all in. I so love a good story.


Saturday, 14 November 2015

A little reading is all the therapy a person needs sometimes.—Unknown


A writer friend of mine is struggling to write a scene that hits too close to something she herself has experienced. It turns out she has never dealt with the incident; she found it too traumatizing. Yet, she is about to incorporate it in her novel. She insists that it must be there for the sake of the plot. I say, you can start a tale anywhere you want and by making it backstory, you don't need to delve as deeply. But, she holds fast to using it authentically. Why? Perhaps, it is time to work through her own anxiety. I think writers have that marvelous and unique opportunity to work personal things out through their stories.

I believe this is true for readers too. Many fictional novels mimic real life events, both on a large scale and on the miniscule level of daily human existence. They make us laugh, they make us angry, and, sometimes, they scare the bejesus out of us. More importantly, they allow us to explore hurt and sorrow, recreating moments that may have caused profound pain in our own lives—letting us weep, wrapped in the comfort and safety of their pages. It can be cathartic.

Other fiction provides delightful diversion as well. Escaping into the other worlds provided by SciFi and Fantasy allows us to leave this one. Thrillers, Mysteries and Adventures keep our adrenalin high and we become heroes for a brief time. Romance is probably the epitome of escapism. There is a reason that Romance novels are among the top-selling genres in the industry. They too can provide emotional release and all of the elements listed above, but they come with a positive caveat not given by any other genre. They guarantee a happy-ever-after.

In light of the ongoing turmoil in the world, I crave comfort. I think I'll grab a romance and curl up this afternoon. At least, for a few hours, I can be assured of a happy ending.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

An Amateur's Guide to Publishing


Last month, I mentioned that an agent had asked for my full manuscript. Friends and strangers alike squealed in delight—yes, sounds transmit quite well through email J—and they congratulated me profusely on my accomplishment. It was then that I realized that I have a whole passel full of non-writers who read my blog and that, perhaps, I should take some time to review the process of moving toward publication.

While a request for a full manuscript is terrific, it is but one step on a very long journey in the world of a writer. I did not start out writing with an eye to publication. I began because a story kept percolating and bubbling into my consciousness and I was curious about whether or not I could get it down on paper. Two and a half novels and three novellas later, it seems that I can.

As I refined my writing through beta feedback, multiple edits and endless revisions, it was inevitable that the thought of entering the competitive world of publishing should enter my mind. After all, it's a lot of work to simply tuck away in the proverbial drawer. My betas (for the uninitiated, these are folks who read your manuscript and tell you, either in a broad or narrow sense, what works for them and what doesn't) are strangers and have no vested interest in humouring me. They give constructive feedback and assure me that they like my stories, enjoy my writing. So, between the hours of creation and the stroking of ego, I decided to enter the business side of writing.

In this day and age, there are basically two options: traditional or self-publishing. Now, self-publishing is filled with success stories and certainly has proven to be lucrative for many. As an added bonus, you don't have to jump the often-defeating hoops of traditional publishing. I won't say any more about it because, quite frankly, I haven't explored it in great detail. I am old fashioned enough to want to make an honest go at the traditional route. So, this is what that looks like:

1.       Agonize, fret, gnash your teeth and pull your hair out…that's the writing the novel part.

2.       Build an online presence so, if you are ever published, people can find you. This blog is part of that. You can also find me on Twitter @roserambles1.

3.       Search far and wide and create a list of agents who are interested in your genre, who seem like a good fit (you stalk them on Twitter and their blogs to make this decision) and who are actually open to looking at new authors.

4.       You query the agent(s) of your choice. Now, the query is your talent in a nutshell, disguised as a business letter. In 200 or so words, your letter must grab the agent's attention enough for him/her to want to see what you've got. Keep in mind, in any given week, this letter hits that agent's inbox along with a hundred or so others.

5.       Agonize, fret, gnash your teeth and pull your hair out…waiting to hear back from agent.

6.       Odds are in favour that you get a polite, usually kind, form rejection. You don't know if said agent has even read your query or if an assistant has decided it's a "no go." (A no response means no interest is the worst of these. Did they even receive the query? Are they just behind in reading their emails? Not even being worthy of a standard rejection does make one feel like the lowest of the low.) Now, if you're lucky, you go to #7. If you're really lucky, you jump to #8.

7.       Agent likes your query and requests a partial, which is literally a piece of your manuscript—30 pages, 50 pages; it depends on the agent. You go back and hang out at #5, hoping it won't take too long and that you'll be able to move on to #8.

8.       Agent likes your query and requests full manuscript. You ship that puppy off faster than you can shout "Yahoo!" and then you go directly to #9.

9.       Agonize, fret, gnash your teeth and pull your hair out…waiting to see if you actually have an agent.

10.   This is the best stage of this part of the game or the worst. Either you get a rejection on your manuscript, that baby you slaved over and love oh, so much, or you get a phone call offering representation. If it is the first, you go back to #4 and start all over again. If it's the latter, you pull out that special bottle of champagne you've been keeping just for that moment. (Well, you pull out a bottle of champagne because the first ten you've saved for that moment have already been consumed because you keep stalling at #6, #7 or option one in #10. J)

Then, my dear non-writer friends, you know what happens with your book? Absolutely nothing…yet. This process starts all over again, only this time you have a partner in agony—your agent—and you both get to work through the pain of finding an editor who wants your work. And, do you know what happens when you hook an editor's attention? You got it, they have to present to the acquisition board and it has to pass muster to move into the publishing process…which is a whole other blog. And, I haven't even touched upon the potential rewriting that occurs between agent and acquisition!

The road to publishing is not an easy one to travel. Writing is my happy place and I hate leaving it to make the journey. Self-doubt hides around every corner, discouragement sits waiting at dead-ends. But you, dear readers, with your interest and your curiosity, are part of the fuel that fires the dream. I thank you for dropping by each week, for sending me emails, for making me feel like I am someone worth reading.


Saturday, 31 October 2015

Surrey International Writers' Conference




The Surrey International Writers' Conference was a blast. An absolute blast. I ate great food, rubbed shoulders with amazing people and, as hoped, learned a little somethin’ somethin’ about this business called writing. But, you know what bowled me over, what left me breathless and giddy at times and downright teary-eyed at others? The pervading spirit of generosity.

I should have known. The signs were there long before the conference began. New to Vancouver Island, I was perplexed by the public transportation system that would lead me to Surrey. Well, I optimistically hoped it might—after four or five transfers with suitcase and laptop in tow. My Twitter friend, Jenny, offered a ride. She connected me with other writers who might also be able to help out. Unfortunately, I was leaving a day earlier than everyone because I was taking a master class (Thank you, Laurie McLean. It was outstanding!) and I had to get there on my own steam, but it was not for lack of considerate offers to get me to the other shore on the Thursday. This was followed up at the end of the conference with a ride to the ferry by a writer I had previously “met” online. If not for Kathleen’s thoughtfulness, I would not have made it back so directly and quickly to DH, and for that I am grateful…because I sure missed DH.

The volunteers welcomed me when I signed in. They were energetic and enthusiastic and I immediately caught the buzz. The organizers checked in to see if all was well, if I knew where I was going, if I was happy with the conference. This didn’t just occur on day one, but each of the four. Kathy, in particular, was genuinely concerned that everyone felt comfortable and that all concerns were addressed. Not that I had any concerns. Well, except for the unventilated public washrooms, but that would be a Sheraton issue not a conference issue. Seriously, Sheraton, get some air moving in there!

The conference exploded with munificence. From the consideration of those giving up their seats in a crowded room to the presenters who gave due diligence to delivering intelligent, informative and, often, amusing workshops, to those attendees who were invitational in the elevator, in the dining room and at the bar.

Jasper Fforde joined our table one evening. He was witty and entertaining—I have ordered his books and can hardly wait for them to arrive. We talked about pitching and he said, “Hit me!” He was offering me the opportunity to practice my pitch. Not wanting to intrude upon his dinner, I refrained, but I did ask him for his pitch so that I might learn. He gave it and that is why I will now own Jasper Fforde books. J

I did do my pitch, nervous as a young girl at her first job interview. Quite frankly, it stunk. I’ve never been good at auditions, although I believe I have some talent to offer the stage. It is no different, apparently, in a live pitch. Patricia Nelson of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency was exceptionally gracious. She opened up the dialogue to explore my genre and confirmed what I have debated all along. Raven’s Path is historical fiction…with a strong romantic theme. Her explanation of marketing and how important it is to get this one right since I have sequels to consider, left me stammering, stumbling, and eternally thankful. Raven’s Path is historical fiction. I worked hard at my research to ensure that it reflected the political and cultural truths of the time. Thank you, Patricia, for naming it. I will now own it with pride.

The list of magnanimous moments is endless. Online writing companions became flesh and blood friends. Thank you Theresa and Kathleen for taking the reins and hosting an amazing Compuserve Forum party—and for stocking champagne! This same group of writers encouraged me to attend in the first place, celebrated the successes of one another (You go Ru, idol queen!), and are now reflecting and sharing notes with those who were unable to attend. Then there was Jack Whyte, who graciously whispered the opening paragraph from Raven’s Path with scotch-infused breath, giving life to the name Anabla Tarleton McGregor. Ah, the rumble of his burr will forever remain with me.

Generous moments. Too many to list. It was a waterfall of beneficence. But, within the splash and fall of such largesse, two moments stand out for me. The first came at my blue pencil. This is an opportunity to put three pages of your work in front of a published author for feedback. I was fortunate enough to have Susanna Kearsley. Now, I picked her because I love her novels and I thought, regardless of what she said about my writing, I would get to chat with someone I admire. She was so supportive and, truly, beyond generous. I’m not sure my feet touched the ground after our session.

The other poignant moment of thoughtfulness came with our final keynote speaker, Terry Fallis. It was a tough time slot and he had to follow some exceptional keynote speakers. He was witty and charming and caught my attention with his story of winning the Leacock Medal for Humour. I lived 30+ years near Orillia, where Leacock is very much featured and honoured, and I recognized the value of such an award. Terry moved beyond entertaining and touched the vulnerable hearts of all of us when he talked about our name tags. He had noticed that all tags had names along with the addition of agent, editor, publisher, volunteer and writer. But many just had the place the person came from. He told us to take off our tags and put writer beneath our names. Because that was what we were, published or not. My vision blurs and I sniffle at the memory.

Terry says I am a writer. Susanna concurs and says to keep on writing. Their voices shout, echo and then quietly mingle to become the chorus to my dreams. I am a writer. I will keep on writing. And, I consider myself privileged to belong to such a generous group of people.


 

Sunday, 18 October 2015

I am still learning. —Michelangelo

Last week I stated that one of my goals this year was to learn...and learn more. Well, this week I am off to the 23rd annual Surrey International Writers' Conference. I'll tell you all about it when I get back. In the meantime, consider me:

Saturday, 10 October 2015

My life is better with every year of living it. —Rachel Maddow


I turned another year wiser on Monday. Not a raucous momentous occasion, but a wonderful day nonetheless. As I get older, I cannot help but reflect upon what has come before and what lies ahead. Rather than ramble contemplatively ad nauseam, I thought I’d give it in a nutshell. Well, a bullet list—which is the written version of a nutshell.

 What I learned this year:
  • Just when I thought I knew where I was going, I didn’t.
  • It’s fun not to know where you’re going.
  • A clean and tidy house isn’t really that important.
  • People are kind and generous.
  • Good friends are irreplaceable.
  • New friends are a treasure found.
  • I can write anywhere.
  • I can dream anywhere.
  • True joy lives in the simple moments.

What I hope I do in the year to come:
  • Embrace new adventures.
  • Live healthily—we now live in a climate where we have no excuse not to be active.
  • Write…and then write some more.
  • Read…and then read some more.
  • Learn…and, you guessed it, learn some more.
  • Find an agent.
  • Slow down and enjoy every minute with DH and the fur babies.

 Does your birthday make you pause and ponder? If so, what do you hope for as your birthday rolls into sight?

 

 

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Laughter is an instant vacation. —Milton Berle


Writing takes effort. It’s pleasurable but hard work.  No different than any other job I’ve ever undertaken, I need a consistent schedule. It is the only way I can get words on the page. I like to write when I feel fresh, when my mind is free from any weight the day might add. For that reason, mornings are sacred in our house. DH understands and leaves me alone, snugged in my corner of the couch. Even the girls accept it, routinely curling up beside me in quiet support.

Yes, it is protected time. Until it is not. I will allow one thing to disrupt it. Friends. I value our friends, appreciate the effort they make to come see us and truly enjoy their company. We have a flurry of visitors over the next week or so, beginning this afternoon and I can hardly wait. I fretted for a moment about interrupted writing routines, but moved past that quickly since I know that I will adjust and write late at night or in the wee hours of the morning. I don’t sleep many hours, so it’s an easy shift to make.

However, having said that, something’s gotta give. And, it will be this blog. So, dear readers, I will be turning over my blogging shingle to the closed side. Or perhaps it should say On Vacation. Laughter, food, wine and good friends. Yes, vacation. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks to tell you all about it. J


Sunday, 13 September 2015

Listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply. —Stephen Covey


I was going to write about querying this week. I have merely dabbled in it and am now ready to go full tilt. But, as I diligently research agents, a voice whispers and demands to be heard. Her name is Lizzy. She is 16 years old and she is in pain.

Lizzy is a cutter. She does not want attention. She just wants to curl up under a sprawling tree and melt into the earth. She thinks, she worries, she feels—and, oh my, she hurts. Lizzy knows all of the things that cause her agony. She can list them as clearly and perfunctorily as her first grade spelling tests. But her thoughts are not as numbing as those lists. They’re painful. And, the only thing that eases them is a razor.

I will query Raven’s Path and Love Denied. I will also continue to write historicals. They are too much a part of me to set aside for any length of time. But, I feel that I must listen to Lizzy too. She is speaking to me in snippets and is anxious to share her story.

Jo dangled her new bracelet in front of Lizzy’s nose. Not that she’d know it was new if Jo hadn’t shoved every purchase of silver and cheap tawdry designer rip off in front of her nose since last semester. “Look, this is just like Angelina Jolie’s when she was with that ugly older guy. See the skeleton in the middle? She was so cool then.”

Lizzy gave her a quick applaud with an “Oh!” but really she was sick of it. She could clearly see the strips of purple, of yellow, of healed brown. Jo pretended she was hiding the cuts, but really she was dressing them up, wrapping them in glamour and yelling “Look at me!” She got pulled out regularly by school guidance for “the talk.” She’d return all coy and humble but she was preening at the attention. A peacock amongst swallows.

Jo cut for show. She cut for attention. Maybe she felt some pain. Who knew? But, she screamed for someone to feel sorry for her. Well, Lizzy knew cutting and she didn’t feel anything for the scars on Jo’s arms. She didn’t feel anything for Jo. As a matter of fact she didn’t give a shit about World History either.

She pushed from the desk and stood, gathering her papers and shoving them into her bag. Mr. Hobard stopped talking and stared at her, the hand that had been swirling through the air frozen, the whiteboard marker clenched between fingers suspended midair. His eyes bulged like that guy in that stupid movie her mom watched over and over, alone, laughing too loud and too much. They popped right out of his head.

“Lizzy, what’s up? You’re giving Hobard a heart attack.”

Lizzy could care less if Hobard keeled over in front of the whole class. She needed to get out. Needed to grab some air. Needed to leave the fake pain and go prick her own.



 

Sunday, 6 September 2015

A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them. --Liberty Hyde Bailey


I am back in the groove. Once again, I am consistently putting aside a few hours each morning for writing, or something related to writing. I have pulled out different pieces and reread them, pondering their strengths and needs and what I should do next. I have two complete novels and three novellas, as well as a sequel, a young adult and a woman’s fiction in the works. These last two are the pieces I play with to hone my craft. It feels good to revisit all of these and ponder revision and creation.

Today we ventured into our backyard. It very much resembles a rich forest in the middle of a dust bowl. We have not touched it despite its neglected state. British Columbia has been in drought conditions for months and we did not want to traumatize the vegetation with our amateurish strokes. The rain fell freely this past week and the leaves perked up. We felt confident that it was a fine time to connect directly to this new land of ours.

We started hesitantly. Some plants looked quite nice and merely needed a clip or two. Some looked a little on the dry side and need more time to absorb the water before we decide how best to come at them. But, there were a few that were clearly out of control. They were difficult to prune as their branches were entwined intricately and to cut one did not necessarily release it. You had to trace back through the weave and snip multiple places before it was truly clear cut.

I could not help but think about how much an arborist’s task is like that of an author. I have pored through my writing this week. I did a quick edit on Raven’s Path and Love Denied and am pleased that there was little trimming to be done.  The sequel to Raven’s Path is suffering fatigue and needs to sit awhile and gather strength until I decide how best to approach it. The novellas need a good pruning, they are interlaced and must be approached with an eye to maintaining the integrity of all three—a terrific task for a rainy day.

I imagine the arborist who faces an empty lot is excited to be able to envision, design and create. That is how I feel as I look at my YA and WF. Their seeds have germinated and it is time to decide where they go. I am optimistic that the landscape of my life will be richer for their creation. Regardless of whether they become breath-taking arboretums, or rugged reminders of hard work, I know I will enjoy them. The words will be the soil that sifts through my fingers, their story the fruit of love’s labour.
 

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Let the wine of friendship never run dry —Les Miserables


I have talked about the bounty of the land. These past few weeks I have also been privy to a different kind of boon: the joy of people, of friendship offered and gladly accepted.

Neighbours have introduced themselves, welcomed us to the community, shared the spoils of their gardens and invited us to their homes. I had great fun meeting one of my online writing peeps for the first time. She dropped by and I now have a face to go with a name, and am thrilled to discover that we have an affinity beyond the Internet environment.

New faces, new stories and people who have never heard our tales...terrific! Yet, there is nothing like a good friend, someone you have known through the years, someone who knows you—the good, the bad and the ugly. We are fortunate that we have several of those on the island. In fact, I believe, we followed their crumb trail here.

This weekend the house resounded with shared stories and inside jokes, and it shook with raucous laughter. We sat quietly and talked about our lives, we baked together, broke bread while growing louder as the night grew dark and we truly laughed until we cried.

The comfortable familiarity, and the depth of understanding we find with one another, makes me realize how true the adage is: It takes a long time to grow an old friend. Maybe some day these new folks will fit the bill too. In the meantime, we are so lucky to have such dear friends close and to have their visits to treasure.


Sunday, 23 August 2015

Chasing My Tail


Moving across the country is not just an adventure, it’s hard work. The trek alone is exhausting but it is alleviated by the thrill of newness and the stunning vistas, not to mention the excitement of anticipation. Looking for a house was a little daunting, yet it turned into a bit of “Wham! Bam! Thank you Ma’am!” Inappropriate, I know, but that was how it went down. Arrived on Monday, looked at houses on Tuesday, owned one on Wednesday and moved in two weeks later—no furniture, mind you, but moved in nonetheless.

The house needed extensive cleaning and we rolled up our sleeves, grabbed the Vim and went to it. Some wall patching and painting ensued. Without all of our things, we had to borrow from a friend and purchase many practical day-to-day things. We had also sold some furniture before leaving, so our labour was interspersed with shopping forays: browsing, choosing, and making arrangements for delivery.

Work-filled days that included assembling many purchases (I can hardly wait until we have to assemble the elliptical!) were interrupted by a parade of tradesmen—hot water tank and central vacuum installation, septic pumping, cable, dishwasher repair, pesticide follow-up spray (Surprise!) and a plethora of delivery men. More often than not, all did not run smoothly. The bed company had arranged for the new bed to arrive two days after our contents. Perfect, since we needed to paint the bedroom and scrape the bathroom free of evidence of the previous inhabitants. Unfortunately, the mattress hadn’t arrived so they postponed delivery until the Sunday. Then the footboard was MIA and, while they delivered the rest, they could not put it together properly. Nice guys, but in a hurry they tore off the decorative post on the baseboard and ripped a strip off of the baseboard. So, more repairs to make and some more waiting on the finished bedroom. Now, these things happen to everyone regardless of where they live. It’s just that when you move, you squeeze an abundance of these incidents into a short frame of time.

I already wrote about being hit by a drunken driver. The fall out of that continues as we have yet to get the vehicle in for repair. Our Ontario license/plates renewal came in and DH diligently phoned them to let them know we have left the province. Well, not so easy. Letters need to be written and signed and sent off. We still need to face my health card renewal gap where it runs out before our BC coverage kicks in. Fingers crossed for good health.

Then there is the day to day learning that comes with living in a new province. We bought a lottery ticket and were charged $3.50 for the privilege. What? Curb side pickup is a challenge. Every Monday you can put out organics but garbage is only collected every other week. Not coordinated with garbage, recycling happens every other Tuesday. Okay, put that in the calendar and we’re good to go. But wait. You can only put paper, cardboard and non-drinking plastic and cans. Anything you drink must be brought back to the store or to a local recycling depot. And glass? Well, apparently that is a specialty item handled by few. Again, you must carefully collect it and return it to a depot, unbroken. Broken, I suppose, it is yours for life.

All of this to say that I have spent my days endlessly spinning. And, I have had just about enough of it. The house is clean. Eventually, everything will find a home in a corner or on the wall and we will persevere and come to know the ins and outs of our new home and community. I’m ready to move on.

Time to stop chasing my tail and start chasing my tale.


Saturday, 15 August 2015

Full Circle


I was raised with the mountain out my back door and the ocean out the front. My husband grew up on a dairy farm. Our new home has merged the two: a bucolic landscape guarded stoically by mountains, washed softly in glimpses of the ocean. Heaven. Surreal. We have basked in it, wallowed in it, shouted our glee from the balcony while the grasshoppers knocked their knobbly knees in approval, seconded by the chirp of crickets.

This week, DH was wrapped in memories as the field behind was cut, the hay dried and then baled. He remembers the harsh winters, the long summer hours and the hard work. He remembers hefting the heavy bales (apparently, nothing like the “easy” forklifting going on in this farmer’s field J), envying cousins who lived in town, and dying to get back to school for a break. Yet, he watched the clearing of the field wistfully.

I was right there with him. Although my rural experience was somewhat different on the east coast, I remember the wandering cattle, the sheep clustered around the mailbox and the old-fashioned scything of the hay and the manual pitchfork turning. I remember the smell of the freshly cut grass and the camaraderie of my cousins. I too smiled at the scene in the distance.

Reality hit shortly thereafter when the farmer spread manure. His field backs directly onto our property, so it was as though he had dumped the load in our backyard. It was thirty degrees and we desperately needed some air in the house, but we closed every window. Lordy, that is not a smell I recall, nor is it one that I want tickling my olfactory senses. DH laughed, recalling the scent quite well, but no more enamoured of it than I. Two very warm days followed with windows sealed tight. A sigh of relief when he was done, and the joy returned as we once again sat on the balcony soaking in our pastoral views, hoping our farmer did not fertilize again until cooler weather.

Another unexpected aspect of our newfound rural life is produce. I am excited by the emergence of fresh fruit. Grape vines wrap the veranda and are producing a healthy crop of delicious green grapes. An Italian plum tree is ripe, dropping its bounty daily. Pears and apples are slowly coming into season. All of this is happening despite extremely dry conditions and with no help from us. You gotta love that.

I have spent the last 30+ years in a city. I got everything I needed from a store. Now it is in my back yard. I am thrilled daily by these surprises. But, I don’t know what to do with any of it beyond the obvious of eating the fresh fruit as is.

DH and I must put our heads together and truly combine the wisdom of our younger years to come up with a plan to take advantage of what nature is so kindly offering. We have explored life in the city together. Now, we must come full circle and join our country hearts to make the best of everything this new life has to offer.





Saturday, 8 August 2015

A Non-Post


I’ve got nothing. Just sayin’. Nothing.

House contents arrived on Tuesday. Six hours of unloading and we stared at a very full house—boxes, miscellaneous, unidentifiable odds and ends and stinky furniture (it had been wrapped and stored for two months; it smelled of stale blankets with a soupçon of diesel). Overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the job ahead we did what any sane person would do. We opened a bottle of champagne and avoided it.

On Wednesday, we had to follow up on the accident I wrote about last week. Paperwork here, pick up a report there, more paperwork and a few phone calls and the day was pretty much shot. Now, we did squeeze in a little shopping and DH was snorting and pounding his chest, ala Tim the Tool Man, in pleasure at the sight of some new big-boy tools in the garage.

Thursday, we dove in. It began like Christmas. Some of the stuff has been packed since May, so you kinda forget what you own. By mid-day we had to take separate floors in the house and do business the way we each do business. DH is rather OCD. Cautious, meticulous and particular, he does everything slowly…but perfectly. The complete opposite, I had paper, contents and boxes strewn everywhere. It was best we worked in our own corners. By the end of the day, the joy of Christmas was long forgotten and we realized that we did not sell enough in our garage sale.

Friday, the furbabies got their first BC grooming. Two weeks overdue, they were thrilled to have an outing. While they enjoyed their new spa experience, we fenced a section of our yard and secured the full perimeter. The sweet innocent-looking one of the fur duo is a total Furdini, and can fit into small spaces and disappear with the snap of our fingers. We also managed several runs to the local recycling depot to get rid of cardboard and paper.

Today, we marathoned unpacking. So much got done, but the house looks the worse for it. Boxes that need to be disassembled are stacked to the ceiling. Bags are full of paper and full boxes still abound. Although, I would estimate that we are about 2/3 done, so that is not too shabby. We started at 7:30 am (yes, separate floors…we are who we are and fully accept that. J) and finished around 5:00 pm.
 

And, now I sit, staring at the computer, knowing I need to do my blog. But, I am empty. Just sayin’. I got nothing. Nothing.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Once in a blue moon...


July 31st was a blue moon. We thought it entirely apt, as we have shaken up our lives to a degree that is unusual to the average person…in our lives. And, once in a blue moon, we do that. Well today, after too many years to want to put in writing, our accident-free record was undone by a fender bender in a parking lot. So, that is also a once in a blue moon for us.

While DH pondered the blue moon implications, in the midst of the turmoil of the moment, I could not help but also put on my writer’s cap. I truly felt as though I were above on a crane, filming the moment, aware of all of the actors involved. It was disconcerting and interesting. Luckily, DH understands, and I will not be subjected to a battery of tests by the local psychologist. Not yet. Truth? Between you, me and the cyber wall? He really should be asking me to stretch out on a couch and spew forth. But, he’s a patient man. A good man. A once in a blue moon kinda man. J


Camera #1 pans the couple. They have just received license plates and insurance for their new province. Pictures are taken of the dear husband putting the plates on the car. It is a moment. It is something to celebrate. They drive across the plaza and park and go in to buy a little bubbly with which to toast this landmark moment in their transition. A man runs in asking who owns a vehicle with such and such a license plate. Having only owned the plates for maybe, fifteen minutes, it takes a minute to register that they are the grand winners in his bingo callout. The car has been hit.

Camera #2 pans to the bystanders. They insist that the police need to be called. One man thought his vehicle was going to be hit. He is visiting his children and grandchildren and had been sitting in the van with them. He is angry that this woman has hit the couple's car and insistent that they need to ensure she does not leave the parking lot. He is rattled. It could have been him and his precious grandbaby. Another man hands over his card, apologizes that he has to run but says he saw it all and would be happy to speak to the police. A third man stays nearby for support while DH goes in to phone the police.

(God bless the bystanders willing to speak out. Seriously, this is a new experience for us and we had no idea what to do. We had a line up of witnesses who left their names and numbers and hung on as long as they could waiting for the police to arrive--the police we called at these people’s insistence. For, we are new to the province and, have I mentioned, too many years to count as accident free? They were concerned for us, but they were also concerned because the driver had driven over a very high meridian and hit us…twice.)

Camera #3 pans to the driver of the car, a woman. She is disengaged from the events, standing in the hot sun by her car, sweating, calmly waiting for the police to come. No fuss and few words, despite attempts to draw her into conversation. The only thing she said was that she was having a really bad day. When the RCMP arrive she raises her hands and says, "I'm the culprit." She willingly takes the breathalyser test and fails. She is put in the back of the cruiser, her car impounded.

My story is pretty linear (Camera #1). License plates, insurance, sense of celebration, a few minutes later, deflation. A man and a woman who could not decide whether to laugh or cry at the impossibility of the timing. (We did choose laughter in the end. Possibly a tad hysterical, but laughter nonetheless.)

The bystanders are the heroes of the tale (Camera #2). They saw not only injustice (apparently, the driver was going to leave until someone jumped out to tell her they had seen it), but the potential for harm that this woman could do in their community. They displayed incredible vigilance and support on the Friday of a long weekend, when you know everyone had somewhere to be. I do believe I am officially in love with my new province.

Camera #3. That’s the camera filming the heartbreaking part of the story. The woman stood, dishevelled, almost disoriented. Remnants of her last meal sat nestled on her chin, the preceding appetizer drizzled down the front of her t-shirt. I would estimate her age to be mid-sixties. Old enough to know better and old enough to know that sometimes life sucks and you wallow in it until you drown. She was drowning.

As a writer, I dissect point of view on a regular basis. I clearly understand my POV. Happily putting on the plates, newly insured, we truck across to the other side of the plaza and are hit by a drunk driver while selecting our champagne. I do believe this situation sets itself up for the exploration of the concept of irony, but I will leave that for another post. J
 
I love the just and righteous POV of the bystanders. Amazing. I applaud them for living up to what we wish for in this world. If more people spoke up when they saw a wrong, more importantly, when they saw a danger to their community, the world would be a better place.

It is her POV that I cannot leave be, that haunts me. What is her story? What leads someone to drunk driving, arrest, and impoundment at 2 PM on a Friday afternoon? What leads them to stand there willingly in a hot parking lot without a word of defense or defiance, placidly waiting for the police to arrive? Regardless of the answer, it is a sad story. It is a weighted POV.

My car is just a car. A lump of metal with a motor, it can be repaired. But what of her? Will this be a catalyst to change? To help? I know not, for that is not information that I will ever be privy too. I feel guilt about making her already bad day, worse. But, then I think of the alternative. She would have been out on the roads. She jumped a high meridian and hit our car twice. What damage might she have done if allowed to go back on the road? What other POV’s might I see? The child on the bicycle? The old man crossing the road? The family heading out for their once a year vacation?

I regret camera #3, I really do. It saddens me. But it is not tragic. What might have happened had this poor woman continued on the road, Camera #4, that would be tragedy. And, quite frankly, I prefer my tragedies to lie between the pages of a book.

 

Saturday, 25 July 2015

I NEED TO WRITE TO BE HAPPY. —NORA ROBERTS


I’m at an odd crossroads. I have a whole lot going on, while a lot of nothing is happening. We have moved into our new home and have been busy scouring, repairing and painting. In between that hard core, get down on your knees or up on a ladder kinda work, we run to and fro between the various communities in our area, filling in the “holes” we see in the house. We have ordered closet systems and interior shutters, have purchased a new central vacuum system and bought a new King bed. We have dealt with the mundane but necessary: septic pumping, new hot water heater, repair on dishwasher.

We are settling down in paradise. I kid you not. I exaggerate not one bit. I step out onto the balcony—doves coo and hawks circle the back farmer’s field while horses frolic in the distance. The mountain sits quietly, majestic and beneficent, warming me with its presence. The pastoral land between my backyard and the ocean that endlessly beckons is calming, balm to my ravaged soul. For, at the moment that is what it is, ravaged. (Keep in mind, I do have a flare for drama.J)

I love my life. I hate my life. Well, perhaps hate is too strong a word. I am disgruntled, unhappy that it is all work and no play. We have moved to this spectacular province and the only thing I know, about the area I live, is the location of the nearest Home Depot or Costco. While I am not anxious to play tourist, it would be nice to see something beyond the hardware stores.

More defeating than that is the fact that we still have no furniture. I have nowhere to sit comfortably and write. And I crave writing. I am positively antsy and, if you speak with DH he will verify, downright cranky about the whole not-conducive-to-writing environment. Writing is who I am, it is what I need. It is right up there with eat well and exercise. It makes me healthy and whole. So, I can hardly wait until everything arrives and I can unpack and get back to the business of being me…which is writing.

Having said that, a ray shone over my frustrations this week. An agent read the first thirty pages of Raven’s Path and requested the full manuscript. I am not naïve enough to think that this leads to a happy-ever-after agent/writer contract, but I cannot tell you how heartening it was to get her email in the midst of my present turmoil.

It helped to remind me of part of the reason I moved out here: to shake up my life, to try something new, to sit on the couch and drink in the vista as I write…and write…and write.


Monday, 20 July 2015

Home is the nicest word there is. — Laura Ingalls Wilder

I am a confident person. In my career, and in my life, I have made decisions without hesitation. Some of them miniscule in the grand scheme of things, some of them incredibly important to all involved. I always weigh the pros and cons, tally the cost and move forward with a sense of sureness that I am doing what is best with the information I have at hand and in the moment.

Yet, I questioned our new house purchase. I did not doubt that moving to the west coast was a good idea. I grew up on the east coast. I was raised with mountains at my back door and the ocean at my front. Ontario has been good to me, but I did not wish to die in a metropolis…well, a mini metropolis, if truth be told. And, just let me note, I have no intention of dying in the near future. I’m banking on another 35+ years, thank you very much.

I had no qualms with shaking up my secure comfortable life. Complacency is enemy to creativity. I crave change, challenge and new experiences. Moving offered all of those things. So, not a glance back as we headed across Canada.

But, we looked at houses our second day on the island. We owned this one on the third. It was a frenzy of bartering, house inspection and septic inspection, followed by the arduous task of securing everything from insurance to hydro. We moved in two weeks after landing in British Columbia. We took a chance and sold our house, not knowing when or where we would secure another one. We flew without a safety net and landed with aplomb.

I had no idea how it could happen that quickly. And, so, I was filled with doubt. Is this the right house? The right area? Did we take on too much with the work that needs to be done? Did we jump too fast? My excitement was tempered by trepidation.

Then, friends came by. Now, friends alone are enough to bring joy to a home. The fact that they made time to come see our new, as yet to be furnished house, is solace to the doubtful heart. They were positive and glowing as they took the tour. Fantastic. But it was watching them look out our windows, seeing their smiles as they walked out onto the balcony, that brought true comfort. The affirmation of our choice was clear in their faces.

Any time I fret or doubt our quick decision, I will stand at a window and trace the direction of their gazes…and drink in the vista: pastoral lands wrapped in mountains with a glimpse of the ocean.

I am home.

 

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Do the planets align or do we make our own luck?


I talked last week about how blessed I am in life: my life’s partner, my fur babies, my friends and my plethora of career choices. The question I have pondered this week, since I do have time to ponder…oodles of time—a discomforting state for me, if truth be told…is Have I worked to invite such amazing gifts into my life or is it sheer luck?

For certain, the circumstance of my birth is pure providence. It is the foundation upon which all other things have been constructed. Did I build the tower of my life or is it all about fate, a big game of Ker Plunk and I am just pulling out the right sticks through happenstance? I don’t know for certain, of course, lacking the surety of a preacher or a prophet, but I do believe there is an element of both at play.

Born in a country of opportunity, I have had access to good health care, free education and (when I did mine) affordable post secondary education. Times were not always easy and money not always ready, but I found that if I worked hard, kept my eyes on the goal, the pay off was worth it. I built a career. I built a life. No stranger to sacrifice and hard work, I built me…from the ground floor up. And, I’m darn proud of it.

Yet, I know so many others who can claim the same thing. They have had goals and have worked hard their whole lives in the same bountiful country as me. Despite that, their lives are filled with setbacks, heartaches and loss. They have done everything right but too many things go wrong. How do I account for that?

“The harder I work, the luckier I get,” a quote oft attributed to Samuel Goldwyn, sums up my general philosophy in life. I have applied it with great success. However, a little voice niggles in the back of my mind, always. Others work just as hard. Work harder. Why you? Why do your stars align? I have no answer. None.

But, Universe, know that I am ever so grateful.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

O Canada


I often think about my blessed life. I'm in good health. I live with a man I admire, respect and love. I cuddle each day with sweet little pups. I am surrounded by kind and generous friends. I have enjoyed a successful career and can indulge in exploring yet another one. I am also graced with the cognitive ability to accomplish things on an academic level and have the fortitude to face the unknown and to see tasks through.

On the heels of Canada Day, I am contemplating the full bounty of the gift that is my life. Through luck or destiny, I was born in a country that allows these blessings. Access to good health care and education is an incredible luxury. The freedom to choose who I love and spend my time with, and the right to choose my path and expect respect as a woman, are not things to be taken lightly.

I have always recognized that I live in a wonderful country, but our journey across its vast expanse has made me appreciate it even more. Canada, the land, is as varied as its people. It is spectacular, breathtaking, awe-inspiring. O Canada, with glowing heart, I have seen thee rise…and you are beautiful. Thank you Fate, for the gift of my home. May it forever be, strong and free.